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John Mawurndjul: Mardayin at Mumeka 2016


  • No.:RK1480
  • Medium:Natural Ochres on Bark
  • Size:210 × 77 cm
  • Year:2016
  • Region:Arnhem Land (West)
  • Art Centre:Maningrida Arts
  • Status:

This work by Mawurndjul concerns a major patrimoiety ceremony of a secret and sacred nature called Mardayin. Much of the meaning of the iconography in the painting is not in the domain of public knowledge and so it cannot be explained in detail here.

The painting refers to a site at Mumeka, which is an outstation in the artist's clan estate in the Mann River region. The Mardayin ceremony performance site is located on a large billabong covered in waterlilies. This place is about 50km south of Maningrida in Central North Arnhem Land.

Some of the components of the painting refer to sacred objects used in the Mardayin ceremony. The public or 'open' image are the different coloured circles placed in a horizontal row across the centre of the bark. The three left-hand circles of this row are man-ngun special 'green flowers'. These plants grow in the water in the billabong at the Mardayin site and are said to glow mysteriously a blue colour at night. The black circle at the right of this horizontal row represents Kun-ronj 'dreaming waterhole' of special significance to the ceremony.

The lengths of cross hatching or rarrk which cover the lower portion of the painting represent components of body painting designs painted on young boys in the ceremony.

In discussing the painting with Mawurndjul it became apparent that it is difficult to divide it into parts each having a neat representational meaning. The painting as a whole is the Mardayin ceremony. The lengths of rarrk are burrkno, the body of the ceremony, but also the 'body' of the water plant.

Bark paintings do adapt to room temperature and humidity. Tiny hair cracks are inherent in the nature of the material.
Special provisions apply to this artwork. Reproductions of the artwork and its story in part or in whole in any form require the permission of the artist. We are only too happy to be of assistance in this matter.